Why I Don't Like "WWJD"

Why I Don't Like "W.W.J.D"

Last Sunday, I preached a sermon that directly addressed the American concept of the gospel and the dangers of prosperity within evangelicalism. Prosperity preaching and the “word of faith” movement have infiltrated the gospel of grace and turned it into a gospel of works, but the foundation was already laid. I do not want to write a history of prosperity preaching in America for two reasons. First, not everyone enjoys history like I do. Second, while the influence of prosperity preachers in the 1800’s is undoubtedly seen in the modern movement, I think it is better to address more culturally relevant issues. That is why I want to tell you why I don’t like WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). 
I am a child of the 90s. I grew up with Walkmans, Tamagotchis, and neon-colored windbreakers. I also grew up in the craze of the WWJD bracelet. Every stylish Christian kid had at least one WWJD bracelet next to their cassette of DC Talk’s Jesus Freak (played at ear-piercing volume in your Walkman, with bass boost) and their puka shell necklace. This was more than a reminder of acceptable behavior; it was a fashion statement! But what’s wrong with a reminder of acceptable behavior?

I think the most basic way to answer this question is not only to ask “what” Jesus would do but “why” we should model Christ-like behavior. At its core, WWJD assumes personal action. When we are faced with an ethical or moral dilemma, we ask, “What would Jesus do?” The result is a good deed or good work. The connection to prosperity is undeniable; if I do what Jesus would, God will bless me. Essentially, if we model Christ-like behavior, God will bless our efforts. Now, don’t miss what I am saying. Indeed, we should behave in a way that reflects what we believe, but even more, we should reflect what has been done for us.

This brings us to the follow-up question: why should we model Christ-like behavior? This question gets to the core of the biblical gospel. Instead of looking back at our good works, we should look back at what has been done on our behalf. Our behavioral change comes out of a heart change.

With that said, I want to give you a few things to consider when you ask WWJD.

1. Your ability to do anything Jesus would do is only because He has given you a new heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 says as a result of the new covenant made in Christ’s blood, we will be given new hearts. The sinful hearts of stone will be removed, and we will be given a new heart sealed with the Holy Spirit. 

2. Apart from a new heart, all your works are dead.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-3 We are dead in our sins and trespasses. In our dead state, we carry out the desires of the flesh, and one of the strongest desires of the flesh is validation. As dead people, we find validation in doing “good” works, even though everything “good” we do as dead people only results in dead works with no value, but there is hope. Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-9, God, being rich in grace, mercy, and love, has made us alive in Christ. The gospel is the message that God, in Christ, has brought dead men and women to life by grace through faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. As a result of our faith in Christ, our dead hearts of stone have been replaced with hearts sealed by the Holy Spirit.

3. Having been made alive in Christ, we are to be imitators of Christ.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says to be imitators of God and walk in love as a sacrifice to God who has made you alive in Christ. Additionally, Paul writes to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” We are to follow in the sacrificial love of Jesus, who gave his life as a ransom for our sins to give us a new heart. In his grace, God also gave strong men of the faith (like Paul) who model Christlikeness. They were imperfect and struggled with sin, but we are encouraged to follow them as they strive to follow Jesus. 

4. Imitating Christ results in the fruits of the Spirit.

Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits are the by-product of imitating Christ. They also become the seasoning salt we, as believers, are to salt the earth with. In this, we work out our faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).

5. The fruits of the Spirit are worked out in our good deeds.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that we are created in Christ Jesus for every good work. Additionally, James 2:17 says faith without works is dead. He continues in James 2:18 to say I will show you my faith by my works. 
WWJD is not simply behavioral modification. More than that, it should remind us that we are to work out our faith in fear and trembling because God is at work within us. Simply asking what Jesus would do and doing that thing does not earn favor with God. Instead, when we understand that we should model Christ-like behavior because he died to give us a new heart and bring us to life, we will desire to demonstrate our faith in Jesus by modeling Jesus through our words and deeds.  
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